Review of Castlevania (Season Two)

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A year ago I signed up for a seven-day Netflix trial, in order to watch the Castlevania animated series. Fast forward to present day were the second season has just been released. Eager to check out the next installment of Trevor Belmont’s adventures, I went to the Netflix site with credit card in hand. Time to reactivate my account I thought. For some reason however Netflix informed me that there is no account on their database registered under my email address (even though by inbox contains receipts stating otherwise.) Long story short, instead of paying for a subscription I am now on a one month free trial. Looks like I get to watch some shows for nowt and then deactivate the service before they bill me.

OVERVIEW

The first season of Castlevania left most viewers wanting more, as it was only four episodes long. Netflix, emboldened by the success of series one, have thankfully doubled the episode count this time round. The series continues from where it left off. Vampire hunter Trevor Belmont has teamed up with Dracula son’s Alucard and a sorceresses named Sypha in order to prevent the bloodthirsty count from carrying out a genocide of the human race. I expected this season of Castlevania to be an action packed affair, were the heroic trio would journey to Dracula’s mobile fortress slaying any creatures that get in their way. The show subverted my expectations by instead dedicating its opener to the villains. In fact, writer Warren Ellis focuses so much attention on the antagonists that they end up getting more screen time than Trevor and chums.

Dracula’s army is led by various generals, including a viking named Godbrand who lives just to drink blood and to fornicate. He is easy to read, unlike the ambitious seductress Carmilla who is adept in the art of manipulation. Dracula’s minions are mostly made up of fellow vampires, but his ranks also contain two humans who are tasked with gathering the deceased and forging them into demonic soldiers. Just like in season one, Castlevania’s script takes the time to explore the motivations of these characters. No one is evil just for the sake of it. In the case of the aforementioned humans, they both turned their backs on the living due to tragic pasts. Isaac for example is a former slave who was abused by the clergy. Hector meanwhile was exiled and despised by his mother due to his necromancy research. Turns out that mommy doesn’t approve of kids that reanimate dead pets.

VERDICT

My rating for Castlevania (Season Two) is four stars. Netflix have once again proven that video games can be successfully adapted into other forms of entertainment. Fans of the console titles should however be made aware that the cartoon is slower paced than the Konami titles it is based off. Much of the series revolves around vampire politics, as Dracula’s lieutenants squabble over how best to enact their lord’s wishes. Meanwhile the heroes spend a good chunk of time at the library rather than kicking butt. I didn’t mind the dialogue heavy episodes, as the story is well written. Ellis knows how to keep things interesting via character development and by using the more duplicitous characters’ schemes to build up anticipation for the inevitable conflict that is to follow. When the action finally kicks off it is well worth the wait. Episode seven sees Belmont and co finally storm the castle. His battle with the vampire generals is excellent, as is the confrontation between Alucard and his father.

In terms of performances I think that most of the voice actors did an adequate job. My first impression of the bloke who played Godbrand wasn’t great. He grew on me though, as the series ticked along. Visually the show resembles a lower budget Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. The creature designs were generic and lacked detail. More impressive was the artwork depicting picturesque scenery, such as the shots of Dracula’s castle. On the animation front there were times when I felt a few extra frames here and there would have made things look better. I have no complaints however about the flashy episode seven showdown. Overall I was very pleased with how Castlevania panned out. Season two wraps up the story in a satisfactory manner and also lays down the groundwork for future tales. Whenever season three sees the light of day I will be sure to renew my Netflix subscription to watch it. In the meantime I have a few more weeks of free Netflix access to enjoy. Are there any other Netflix exclusives I should check out? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.

Thirty Day Anime Challenge – Days 11 to 12

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Time to answer some more anime questions, as it has been seven days since I last wrote a blog post. What a week it has been by the way. The Internet has gone gaga over Bowsette – a female version of Bowser who, via the power of the recently revealed Star Crown, is able to morph into a sexy Peach lookalike. If you ask me Mario should dump the Mushroom Kingdom’s ungrateful monarch (players who completed Odyssey will know what I am talking about) and hook up with someone else. I have always been a fan of Rosalina and Pauline, but if neither are interested in dating a plumber perhaps Mario should consider patching things up with his unexpectedly attractive arch nemesis.

Another thing that has happened since my last blog post is that Cells at Work has finished airing. The thirteen-episode anime, based on Akane Shimizu’s manga, reminds me a little of Once Upon a Time… Life. Who says that cartoons cannot be educational? By watching this series viewers can learn about the human body’s inner workings. Even those employed in the medical profession have been impressed by the show’s content. Below is a video, uploaded by a doctor, who reacts positively to the anime’s premier episode. If you don’t care about biology fear not because there are other things to enjoy including visceral action, cute Platelets and two main characters that will have you shipping haemocytes.

Okay, enough with turtle and cell romance. Let’s answer some questions…

DAY ELEVEN: Favourite mech anime

I have a soft spot for the mecha genre, as it played a part in moulding me into an anime fan. Nowadays I indulge in anime that feature mechs sparingly, but years ago I grew up watching loads of giant robot shows. My favourite mech series would have to be Code Geass. The show offers more than just exciting bot battles and cool Knightmare Frame designs. A smartly written political plot, likable characters on both sides of the conflict, drama mixed with comical moments and many cute waifus make Code Geass one of my favourite anime of all time. Fingers crossed that the upcoming movie and third season don’t tarnish the legacy of a franchise that is perfect as is.

DAY TWELVE: Saddest anime death

Caution. This response is a spoiler for Trigun. You have been warned! The saddest death I have witnessed in anime would have to be the demise of Nicholas D. Wolfwood. His passing sucked because he is arguably the best character from that series. The manner in which he goes out makes his death all the more painful. It wasn’t quick or your typical heroic sacrifice. Wolfwood’s chapel confession makes it clear that he doesn’t want to die. He leaves the world full of regrets. Raised to be a killer, he feels like his life has been a mistake. Cruelly he is mortally wounded just after finding companions who have shown him a better way to live. Milly and Vash’s reaction to the news makes the scene all the more heart wrenching.

Man, what a depressing note to conclude this post on. It will take many Platelets clips and gender-bending King Koopa artwork to improve my mood.

Thirty Day Anime Challenge – Days Nine & Ten

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Before I answer a couple more questions from The Thirty Day Anime Challenge I’d like to take this opportunity to comment on the breaking news regarding Telltale Games. It’s sad to see this company of interactive storytellers go bust. A talented studio dies, due to poor sales, whilst the likes of EA continue to prosper. Maybe instead of buying FIFA packs we gamers should have purchased Telltale episodes instead. So many people moan about greedy micro-transactions, but yet they don’t support the more consumer friendly content creators. We pinched pennies waiting for Telltale stuff to go free on PS Plus and this is the end result.

I wish the two hundred plus staff, who lost their jobs without getting any severance pay, all the best with finding new employment in the industry. Commiserations also go out to anyone who bought The Walking Dead season pass. Looks like the game is deader than a zombie, so those remaining episodes are unlikely to ever get released. A former “Game of the Year” winner deserved a better finale than this. For anyone unacquainted with Telltale I recommend giving their back catalogue a look. Tales from the Borderlands is hilarious and arguably more fun than the mainline Borderlands games. Telltale’s rendition of Batman is excellent too. Puts some of the Caped Crusader’s cartoons to shame.

Okay, enough with the doom and gloom. Let’s answer some anime queries…

DAY NINE: Favourite Anime Villain

I am going to pick Light Yagami, from Death Note, even if it feels weird to brand the protagonist of a series a villain. Like other memorable antagonists, from fiction, Light has a creditable motivation for his actions. By harnessing the Death Note’s power he schemes to rid the world of crime. Fair enough. If I owned a killer tome I too might feel compelled to punish rapists and animal abusers. Murder is however illegal and Light is eventually forced to commit heinous deeds in order to escape arrest. His transgressions only grow worse when he develops a God Complex. A model student eventually transforms into a villain who can even make the act of snacking on potato chips look wicked.

DAY TEN: Favourite Fighter Anime

Back when I was a teenager Dragon Ball Z would have easily secured my nomination for best fighting anime of all time. Now that I’m older and wiser I have however realised that DBZ is more of a yelling show than a fighting one. My pick for this category therefore goes to Kill la Kill. Just like Akira Toriyama’s best-known work, this series is packed with action and even has an arc set in a fighting tournament arena. Another connection worth mentioning is that Kill la Kill features garments called “Goku” uniforms. Kill la Kill is worth watching for the wackiness, intense battles and superb soundtrack. Out of the many fighting cartoons I have seen this Studio Trigger production, about a girl who wields a “scissor” blade, stands out as a “cut” above the rest.

Thirty Day Anime Challenge – Days Six to Eight

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Time to write some original content, as it appears that sites cannot survive solely by reblogging other people’s posts. I thought the readership would appreciate me promoting their work, but alas the numbers don’t lie. View counts are down and some have even branded me lazy in the comments section. To make amends I will answer some more questions from the Thirty Day Anime Challenge. In theory I should be answering one of these every twenty-four hours, but that sounds like too much hard work. Hmmm, I guess that commenter was correct about me being slothful!

DAY SIX: Anime I want to see but haven’t yet

I want to watch Grave of the Fireflies, but haven’t yet because I am a pussy. Whenever I think of picking up the DVD I reconsider due to the subject matter. A movie about war decimating families and kids starving to death sounds downright depressing. Isn’t entertainment meant to be fun? For me the appeal of anime is the kickass action, bouncy boobies and hilarious comedy. The synopsis for Grave of the Fireflies reminds me of In This Corner Of the World – a film that made me feel miserable. One day however I will cross off Fireflies from my bucket list. Just like Akira or Ghost in the Shell it has the reputation of being a critically acclaimed feature that every anime fan should experience at least once.

DAY SEVEN: My anime crush

Technically speaking, I have already answered this back when I participated in the Five Flaming Hotties tag. To see a list of my favourite animated women click HERE. For the sake of this post I’ll mention someone who barely missed out on making the Flaming Hotties quintet – Nene Romanova. I suppose you could say she was my first anime crush, as she appears in the first anime DVD series I ever purchased (Bubblegum Crisis 2040). Out of the four Knight Sabers she was my favourite. Nene is funny, looks good in a uniform and has geek girl appeal thanks to her computer skills. Completing the package is a cute voice, provided in the English dub by voice actress Hilary Haag.

DAY EIGHT: Favourite anime couple

My vote goes to the Clannad pairing of Tomoya Okazaki and Nagisa Furukawa. One advantage this couple has over other anime lovebirds is that we see their relationship develop over two seasons. Whilst other shows end with the leads sharing an inaugural kiss Clannad covers how Tomoya and Nagisa went from high school sweethearts to husband/wife and finally parents. I dig this ship because they compliment each other so well. Tomoya supported Nagisa with her health issues and Nagisa’s influence, in turn, saved him from a delinquent existence. If you haven’t watched Clannad I highly recommend that you do. Given my earlier comments, in the Day Six section, you know I dislike tragic stories. You can therefore rest assured that Clannad is completely devoid of tearful moments (muwahaha.)

Sword Oratoria: Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side

What is it with Japanese creators and their ridiculously long show titles? Do you think they are overcompensating for something? This twelve-episode DanMachi spin-off follows the Loki Familia guild, on their journey through a dungeon infested with monsters. The fantasy themed story is pretty straightforward, aside from some mysteries that sadly remain unanswered by the time this cour finishes. Oh the joys of anime adaptations based on light novels that have yet to reach a definitive conclusion.

The protagonist of this tale is a stoic fighter named Ais Wallenstein. She resembles a less fleshed out Violet Evergarden. If you prefer girls with a bit more personality fear not, as she is accompanied by an emotional Elven sidekick (who secretly has the hots for her.) Sword Oratoria is a three star series in my opinion. Nothing special, but DanMachi fans who seek more animated adventures set in the same universe should enjoy it. For more information please click below to read MIB’s assessment of the recent UK home video release.

Sword Oratoria: Is it Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side(Cert 12)

2 Discs DVD / 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 303 minutes approx.

Release Date: September 3rd  

As the lengthy and cumbersome title suggests, this show is a spin-off from an existing series, featuring one of the characters from the fantasy comedy Is it Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? and giving them a moment in the spotlight. I’ve not seen the parent show but it would appear this isn’t an issue as the lead and her support cast are introduced as if this was a fresh series.

The titular dungeon is not, in fact, a vast underground lair where people are interred and subject to daily torture, instead it is the name given to the multi-level area beneath the Tower of Babel in…

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Thoughts on Berserk

This write up from Jeffrey Botah reminds me what an excellent series the nineties Berserk was. An exceptional rise and fall tale set in a medieval/fantasy world that should appeal to Game of Thrones fans. Highly recommended to anyone who isn’t squeamish. I would rank Berserk as one of my fave anime of all time, were it not for the inconclusive ending. Back when the movie trilogy came out I was disappointed to learn that it was just an abridged version of this story, rather than a continuation. One of these days I’ll have to check out the new anime. I just need to muster up the willpower to deal with its horrible CGI.

Jeffrey's blog

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(Possible spoilers)

Berserk. That shit is messed up and you know what? I’m fully here for (most of) it. It’s an anime that had been on my list for a long time and I finally got around to watching it. If I’m getting this right, there are two Berserk series and I watched the one from the 90’s so I’ll watch the other series at some point. Berserk is a story about a swordsman named Guts who pretty much on sights anything that moves, his supreme inability to control his sword erection earns the interest of a man named Griffith who forcibly recruits him into his group the Band of the Hawk, where the real story begins as they journey to achieve Griffith’s dream.

From the beginning, the anime didn’t even try to hide that it would have a dark tone and it tried even less to hide that it…

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Review of Trigun: Badlands Rumble

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It’s great to see Full Metal Panic return to our screens after a lengthy hiatus. The gap between FMP content reminds me of the time when Badlands Rumble first hit the scene. This ninety minute animated film was released in the year 2010… over a decade after the Trigun series aired in Japan! You certainly cannot accuse studio Madhouse of rushing out a product to capitalize on the popularity of a show. This story takes place sometime during the events of the Trigun series (so it isn’t a sequel) and sees Vash tangle with a robber named Gasback, whose life he spared twenty years prior.

OVERVIEW

Badlands Rumble takes place in Macca City, a settlement where Gasback’s former lackey Cain is the incumbent mayor. Years ago, the pair had a falling out after Cain betrayed Gasback during a heist. You cannot trust anyone named Cain it seems… just ask Abel! Gasback has decided to pay back his ex-henchman by riding into Macca and stealing a pricey bronze statue that is situated there. As luck would have it, Vash the Stampede arrives in town just before Gasback’s raid is due to go down. Talk about bad timing. Vash has a sixty billion double dollar price on his head. That could well attract the attention of the multitude of bounty hunters, who are presently in Macca hoping to nab Gasback.

Vash isn’t the only one suffering from ill fortune. Insurance girls Milly and Meryl are back and this time round their employer has tasked them with protecting the abovementioned statue. If said sculpture is damaged their company will be out of pocket. Guarding the statue will be no easy task, as wherever Vash goes destruction usually follows. Upping the ante is the appearance of wandering priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood. This man of the cloth, who carries a rocket launcher fashioned after a cross, has been hired to be Gasback’s bodyguard. Wolfwood’s church services will be required, as a redhead named Amelia is currently pursuing Gasback with the aims of avenging her late mother.

VERDICT

My rating for Trigun: Badlands Rumble is a three out of five. Fans of the Trigun series are sure to enjoy this new Vash adventure. It’s an enjoyable space western that delivers in terms of cool gunfights and humorous slapstick, courtesy of its needle noggin protagonist. Viewers of the old show are sure to appreciate the movie’s upgraded visuals. Thanks to the higher production values, both the animation and artwork have received a substantial facelift. It’s especially noticeable, as Trigun never pushed the envelope when it came to spectacle. Compared to something like Cowboy Bebop, which came out at around the same time, the series lacked polish and has therefore aged less well.

I remember loving Badlands Rumble, back when I first bought the DVD, but have to say that I liked it less on a recent viewing. This second screening helped me identify how the script rehashes ideas from the series. A criminal who desires revenge on his old gang is reminiscent of the episode titled Love & Peace for example. Amelia also reminded me of Elizabeth, who appeared in episode six, as they are both beauties who seek vengeance against an outlaw. Given the movie’s place in the Trigun timeline there isn’t much tension, as we all know Vash will escape from this trial unscathed. I did however dig the moments that question Vash’s no-kill philosophy. Not murdering may sound noble, but as Batman has learnt, is it ethical to pardon those who will just go off to do more harm?

One thing I can say about watching Badlands Rumble is that it rekindled my dream of seeing a Trigun remake that sticks more faithfully to the manga. Full Metal Alchemist and Hellsing have proven that such a project could work. Given the time it took for this movie to get made though, I suspect that the wait for a new Trigun show would be longer than Vash’s full name. For those of you who don’t know, his complete moniker is – Valentinez Alkalinella Xifax Sicidabohertz Gumbigobilla Blue Stradivari Talentrent Pierre Andry Charton-Haymoss Ivanovici Baldeus George Doitzel Kaiser the Third.